Jokanovic expecting a fight as Fulham look to bounce back from derby defeat

Fulham head coach Slavisa Jokanovic expects Birmingham City to provide a similar challenge to Millwall a fortnight ago, but believes his side will be more clinical this time around.

The Whites will be hoping to deliver an immediate response to last weekend’s dispiriting 3-1 derby defeat to Brentford, which saw the visitors go ahead through Neeskens Kebano. However, a second-half capitulation ensued, compounded by Denis Odoi’s sending-off.

The Blues are the division’s lowest scorers and Jokanovic expects his side to be more composed than they were against the Lions.

“I cannot be satisfied with how we played against Millwall. We had many problems in the challenge and with second balls. We must improve this kind of situation.

“We scored one goal after not creating so much. I expect tomorrow we could face a similar type of team, but on the other hand I expect we can offer a better performance, control the game better and be a little bit more comfortable.”

The Blues are the division’s lowest scorers, but David Cotterill has improved the team’s fortunes slightly since taking over from Harry Redknapp.

Jokanovic is confident his side will come away with three points, but would not dismiss tomorrow’s opponents.

“At the moment, they are not successful, but they are competitive, big, strong and like always it will be a tough game.

“We have to be strong in the challenge and alert to the second phase.  They are not going to give us so much time for the defensive transition.

“We have to show patience, quality and a killer instinct.”

Odoi will not be available as he serves his one-game suspension, while Floyd Ayite, Tayo Edun and Lucas Piazon are also absent.

Piazon is stepping up his recovery from the broken leg he suffered against Leeds United in August and will return to first-team training imminently, with a view to possibly playing over the Christmas and New Year period.

Jokanovic is cautious about rushing the Brazilian, but is pleased with the 23-year-old’s application.

“We expect Piazon will be back working with the team after the Sunderland game. He is currently working separately with the medical department and the physios.

“He always shows us great spirit, a great desire for working. When we start working with him, we must check and see how long it will be until he can help us on the pitch.”

Some fans have questioned team selection all season, with the lack of opportunities given to Yohan Mollo and Jordan Graham causing controversy.

Jokanovic’s dry wit came to the fore, with the Serbian noting it was not possible to play everyone at once.

“I am working with 23 players and FIFA and UEFA rules mean we can only start with 11. It depends on the situation. These two players must be professional.

“They are working, but I choose what I believe is best for my team. When I put players on the bench or in the stand, it’s because I believe I have better options to put on the pitch.”

With the fixtures set to come thick and fast during the festive period, now is the time for Fulham to get a run on the board. After Birmingham, they face two more bottom-six sides in Sunderland and Barnsley, offering the the springboard the club need to close the gap on the play-offs.

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